In the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis' autobiography, 'Report to Greco', there is this beautiful scene that you often remember. During the course of his wanderings across the islands, the author, along with a friend who is a priest, stops at a little monastery occupied by Sufi dervishes who dance every Friday. They have a conversation with a friendly dervish who comes out to welcome them.
"Father, what name do you give God?", asked the abbé.
"God does not have a name", the dervish replied. "He is too big to fit inside names. A name is a prison, God is free."
"But in case you should want to call Him," the abbé persisted, "when there is need, what name will you use?'
The dervish bowed his head and thought. Finally he parted his lips: "Ah! - that is what I shall call Him. Not Allah, but Ah!"
* * * * * * * *
As you walk into the gray monsoon-dark park that day, you are unprepared for the discoveries you would make. More than six months ago you had searched for the tree of the beautiful red seeds, with a friend's young son. The seeds were everywhere, but you could not locate the tree. And you tried again afterwards, months later. But you never found it.
Today when you start your usual walk, cutting across your favourite stretch, you walk a little more to the left than usual. And you notice that the ground beneath your feet is full of red seeds! You look up. You are under the Red Sandal tree. At last. It was there always. So close to where you usually have your park picnics. And you'd never noticed!
And then a little further down, you discover the huge round cup-like seed pod a friend had found during a picnic. And whose source you could never find. And today you walk into a space covered with them! And you look up at these three beautiful giant trees with thick canopies. You are filled with wonder. This was a stone's throw away from where you normally sit. A horticulture-lover friend identifies it for you. The Sterculia Alata, the Buddha Coconut tree.
You feel like a child all over again. You want to hug strangers and tell them - hey, look what I found!
And then when you reach your silk cotton tree and discover a new nest in a branch you always look up at, you smile.
Lying down under the tree, you think of how over the years you have become more fascinated by people than places. How every person is a country that reveals new territories that you never knew existed. And how that happens only when you reach out, are curious, when you create this safe place where the other can open up without fear. When you learn to project kindness, like a horse whisperer who wins the trust of even the most wounded animal.
You are filled with wonder as you traverse layer after layer into the core of another.
We are plural. We are changing. And the familiar is forever new.
16 Aug 2015
The full series here: http://whiletheworldisgoingplaces.blogspot.in/search/label/Notes_from_a_Ritual